The Venerable Hedgehog Instructs on Change Leadership
The hedgehog is not your everyday pet. In fact, it is an odd choice for a pet in general: a nocturnal mammal that is not particularly cuddly. But don’t ask my daughter, who has pined for a hedgehog for several years now, and only has recently been allowed to acquire one. Spending a bit of time with Maurice – perhaps named for a certain line from a Steve Miller Band song, perhaps not (but you’re singing it now, aren’t you?) – and it got me thinking that there were certain principles that we espouse on change leadership that were undoubtedly encountered in the procurement and introduction of the little night-dweller.
Let’s start with a quick review of the 8 principles of effective change leadership:
- Know your vision
- Senior sponsor
- Engage early
- Validate approach
- Over communicate
- Instill confidence
- Adequately train
- Timely support
Yes these are principles typically applied to the conduct of projects like SAP Business Process optimization, but curiously, they do seem to apply to the entire indoctrination of a hedgehog as a pet.
Let’s start with #1 – Know your vision. Claire knew her vision, and it was to own a hedgehog. She did an admirable job of socializing that vision amongst those in the household, so that everyone knew that one day they would be introduced to a small prickly rodent-like pet. Ok, that’s a little bit different than socializing the need for an Accounts Payable solution, but it is still very important to ensure everyone is on the same page at the get-go.
This wonderful little hedgehog has Claire as chief caretaker/project manager, but there was still a need for a Senior sponsor (#2). Claire enlisted a parental unit to champion the cause: a cage for Maurice, a variety of foods (living and non) to support the little critter, and of course the treadmill/wheel that keeps him in shape. The Senior sponsor is able to address the needs of all pets and settle disputes, including those voiced by the 85 pound dog; this is in fact eerily
similar to dealing with issues between business divisions and far-flung global operations when standardization is the topic of the day.
The selection process for a software/process solution is oddly analogous to getting a hedgehog. There was a need to Engage early (#3) all participants in the evaluation stage to gain acceptance. Initial resistance was high, but once those cute little ears popped magically from the ball of thousands of quills, buy-in was complete. Just like the wow factor from a flawless demo and ROI analysis.
Of course, there was the necessary review of all available options. Principle #4 – Validate approach, was achieved in the back and forth discussions about the need for an additional animal in the house. Claire did not need to validate her selection with her friends, for she was convinced of the need for a cute, alebit prickly and hissy, friend. Issues were raised and addressed – such as what will the dog make of it, how will you stop the dog from eating it, how will the dog tell the difference between Maurice and squeaky-toy hedgehog? Likewise in our approach to process optimization projects, we need to be able to address issues and see potential benefits where perhaps they are not always obvious.
#5 – Over communicate: Not an issue for Claire, who is a gifted debater and sales person in her own right. But again, what was attractive to Claire was not apparent at the outset to others. “Why would you want a hedgehog as a pet?” Too often we don’t address assumptions of others in our organizations and failure to over communicate the vision and benefits can lead to stalled or mis-guided projects.
#6 – Instill confidence: I don’t believe there is a more optimistic, glass-is-half-full creature than a hedgehog on a treadwheel. In particular at 2:00 in the morning (recall: Noctural = Bad). He is brimming with confidence, and frankly it is contagious, like many an SAP integration project team. One can’t help but cheer him on in getting to the end of the wheel so that the incessant trotting will draw to a close. Feel free to instill this confidence anyway you can in your own organization.
Moving to #7 – Adequately train. Well, to be honest, this doesn’t really apply at all. The hedgehog brain is roughly the size of a pea, and according to his primary care giver when asked about whether he could be trained: “No, he’s dumb; he’s literally a pea brain”. This of course is not the case whatsoever for
our end user communities who need big picture perspective and detailed tactical how-to’s, but for a hedgehog…oh well. Onto Principle 8.
There is nothing like Timely support (#8). Especially when it is 10:30 at night and there is blood discovered in the hedgehog cage. There was indeed an incident. Now logic would dictate that this would be the case with an 85 pound dog, bred for retrieving dead and prickly things, living in the same house. Poor Maurice ended up on the business end of a diversionary tactic. In the melee, there was an injury. Internal bleeding was feared as there was no visible cut to Maurice. Of course the ER Vet will see him now. Happily, the situation was diagnosed down to the fact that our brave little hedgie bit his lip as he was flying through the air avoiding the large black dog. $68 dollars later, Maurice was carefully ensconced back in his cage with a dose of antibiotics to be on the safe side. Timely support indeed, but the relational experience to the eight principles did not end there. Claire experienced the antithesis of principles 5 and 6: the ER Vet was so confident that Maurice had succumbed to the lip injury, that she sent Claire a sympathy card. This was not a mistake borne of automation, as the ER Vet in fact chose to over-communicate to Claire with a personalized note. Last we checked, Maurice’s pulse in his little hedgehog wrist showcased the need for attention to details on process-based projects as well as to the care of extended family members.
So, there are potential equivalences we can see between solid change leadership of process optimization projects and introducing a spiny mammal from Africa into your home. While perhaps Maurice does have limited brain capacity, he is still quite capable of enlightening us.